When you lose your laugh you lose your footing.

It was a Wednesday morning in October, 2002.  I remember it well because I had a night class every Wednesday that started at 6;  I took advantage of having the place to myself while everyone in my family was at work and school by making myself whatever I wanted to eat, listening to music as loudly as I wanted, and so on and so forth.

This particular Wednesday was not unlike the rest.  I woke up and did my usual things, like make breakfast (I think I made myself a BLT bagel that morning) and poured myself a cup of coffee from the coffee that was leftover from earlier that morning, and came back downstairs to my room where I’d watch my usual TV shows before getting on with my day.  It was a routine I enjoyed and this particular Wednesday was not unlike the rest.

It started in the shower.  I can’t remember exactly what sparked it, or why (I don’t think it particularly matters), but it was a quick progression.  Before long, I was on my knees with my head in my hands, sobbing and shaking violently and I had no idea why.  The kind of sobbing that takes over your entire body and you don’t  recognize the sounds that are coming out of you because you’ve never heard them before or anything even like it.  The kind of sobbing you never want to hear again because it’s so incredibly harrowing and traumatic and wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I sat in the shower stall, in that exact position, until the water ran cold because I didn’t know what else to do.

When I got out of the shower, I stood in front of the mirror and dried the mist off of it so I could have a better look at my face. I thought I looked ridiculous as this sobbing mess of a person and hated myself. I’d never sobbed quite like this before — it was completely surreal, like I wasn’t even human — and I didn’t recognize myself: the way I looked or the way I sounded and I wanted it to stop. I was terrified of myself and what I could potentially turn into. “Snap out of it, Jocelyn, you’re being ridiculous,” I said to my reflection. I slapped myself on the face to help shake whatever it was out of me, but it didn’t work.

I wrapped the towel around me and slinked back to my bedroom where the meltdown continued and my homework for my class that evening sat unattended and unfinished on my computer desk.  Seeing it there made it worse because I felt the pressure to get it done but I was in no way, shape or form in the right state of mind to do so.  I just wanted to feel ‘normal’ again and carry on with my day.  I was terrified about the state of mind I was in because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and I was in no position to be alone, I knew that for sure.  At the same time, I didn’t want anyone to see me in that state — I was embarrassed and felt ashamed because I couldn’t pull myself together — and wanted to snap out of it before anyone got home.  I convinced myself I’d go to my class that night because I didn’t want to be a disappointment or let anyone down.  I had a group project presentation that evening and didn’t want to miss out because I’d worked hard on it.  I couldn’t help but think how embarrassing it would be to not go to school because I couldn’t stop crying and I didn’t know why.  Who does that?

The phone rang and since I was the only one home, it was my duty to answer it. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but I saw that it was a relative calling so I picked the phone up.

I cleared my throat and composed myself as best as I possibly could. “Hello?”

“Jocelyn? Hi. Is your mom there?” it was my aunt.  I knew they’d been talking a lot recently and daily phone calls weren’t unusual.

I felt myself faltering. I felt the tears forming again.  Before I even said anything they were spilling over my eyelids as I struggled to say “No, she’ll be back this afternoon though.” I didn’t want her to think anything was wrong with my mom, so that was the best I could muster.

“Jocelyn, are you okay? Sweetie, what’s wrong?” she said.

I let out a sob, similar to the ones I’d experienced in the shower.  “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”  I heard her sigh, not out of frustration but because she understood I was hurting and I was suffering, alone, in that very moment.

She stayed on the phone with me until my mom got home, which wasn’t that long, but she asked me questions without judgment and didn’t get upset with me when I didn’t have an answer for them.  When my mom finally got home, she told me I wasn’t going to class that night, so I called my classmates and told them a family emergency had came up and that I couldn’t make it.  Somewhat true, I suppose, and they understood. These things happen.  I wonder what would have happened if I had been 100 percent honest about it.

The next day, an appointment with a counsellor was made at the hospital, which was less than a block from where we lived.  No questions were asked, it was just done.  That day in October was the first time I’d ever let things come crashing down, suffocating me, because I didn’t deal with them.

This particular Wednesday was unlike the rest.  It was the day help came knocking on my door.

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Author: Jocelyn Aspa

early 30-something. journalist. sports fan. puns. cats. mental health advocate. not taking myself seriously (most of the time)

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